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Newsletter #56: January 2005

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***Secrets of Paris Newsletter #56: January 14, 2005***

The alternative Paris newsletter of restaurant reviews, shopping tips, upcoming events, the latest night spots, and hotel recommendations, by local travel writer, Heather Stimmler-Hall.

* From the Editor
* Event: Book Launch Party
* News (bad): January 19 Strike
* Drinking: Absinthe
* Entertainment: A New Paris Salon
* Event: Paris Writer’s Tour
* News (warning): High Season in June
* Entertainment: Ready for my close-up…
* Culture: Kilometer Zero is Back!
* Entertainment: Live Music on a Budget
* News (more bad…): Sunside/Sunset Closed
* News/Miracles: Tourism Office Re-Opens
* Drinking/Dining: Lovely Wine Bistro
* Sightseeing: American Patriot Tours of Paris
* Shopping: Kitchen & Girly Stuff
* Entertainment: Dancing de la Coupole
* News/Miracles: The New Beaugrenelle
* Shopping: Gift for Jazz Lovers
* Culture: The Latest Artists’ Squat
* Dining: Korean Restaurant
* Entertainment/Masochism: Nightlife Mishaps
* Homeless Heather
* Are you on the list?

* From the Editor *
This morning I got up early. I had a plan. I was going to try something I’d never done before: Day One of the famous soldes,France’s twice-annual clothing sales. I arrived at the huge suburban shopping mall about ten minutes before opening, but still had to park at the very back of the top level parking garage. The stores were completely full. The lines at the registers were long. The shoes I had my eye on were already gone (the pair in my size, anyway). I’ll admit it; I’m not a power shopper. I gave up and went home. And a good thing, too, because what an amazing day it was today! Yesterday I had on the hat, scarf, gloves and winter coat. Today I took the doggies for a walk in the forest wearing just a denim jacket. No better way of starting out the New Year than with a beautiful sunny January day in Paris! – Heather

* Event: Book Launch Party *
Yeah! I’m finally having a book launch (better late than never), Wednesday January 19 at 8pm, Abbey Bookshop ((29 rue de la Parcheminerie, 5th, metro St-Michel or Cluny-La Sorbonne). You bring yourselves and I’ll bring some wine and left-over Christmas chocolates. Oh, and dress warm because we’ll be snacking outside! http://www.stimmlerhall.com/adventureguide.htm

* News (bad): January 19 Strike *
Of course, you may have to plan ahead on how you’re going to get around because the French public transport workers have called for a nationwide strike for next Wednesday (sigh, don’t ask why). And if you’re driving in to town past Clamart and see a hitchhiker with a white fuzzy hat, please give me a lift!

* Drinking: Absinthe *
Back in Montmartre’s cabaret heyday in the late 19th century, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his fellow gang of merry artists and writers spent many an evening swimming in a hallucinogenic sea of absinthe. Also known as the Green Fairy, absinthe was an anisette-based liqueur with a bit of poisonous herbs that didn’t just get people drunk, but also apparently turned them mad. So absinthe was banned and the party ended. A few years ago it re-emerged in a legal version that tastes the same (a bit like pastis, which was the original absinthe alternative), minus the poisonous bits. Of course, the new version have different names, such as Versinthe. You can purchase it in most liquor stores in France, although it’s still sort of a novelty so don’t expect to see it served in the corner café. There’s a method to serving it that involves a water tank with a spout, a flat silver spoon with holes in it, and sugar cubes. If you’re interested in an introduction to the whole tradition, stop into the Hotel Royal Fromentin (11 rue Fromentin, 9th; right around the corner from Pigalle), a former cabaret known as Le Don Juan with a lovely bar specializing in absinthe. Try popping in after dinner when the night staff aren’t too busy and can give you the full presentation. (And guests at the hotel even get a little color booklet about the history of the beverage). http://www.hotelroyalfromentin.com

* Entertainment: A New Paris Salon *
There’s a new arts salon in Paris, taking place in a gallery in the Bastille neighborhood with artists and experimental/electro DJs. The salon take place every Saturday night, €20 (DJ, wine and appetizers included). Sound interesting? Cintact Susie Hollands for more info. at 06 17 40 82 04 or email suzanne@ivyparis.com. IVY: 25 Rue Keller, 11th.
UPDATE: The salon is now taking place every Thursday from 7-10pm, entrance €10. www.ivyparis.com

* Event: Paris Writer’s Tour *
This summer I’ll be helping to organize a week-long Writer’s Tour of Paris with writing coach Cynthia Morris June 24 – July 1st:

“Let Paris draw out the creative writer in you. Walk in the footsteps of famous writers who used Paris as their Muse. Visit historic literary sites and draw inspiration from the past in order to inspire our own writing. Absorb the Paris of today and use the city to ‘word sketch’. You’ll hone your eye for detail, strengthen your writer’s voice and experience the city as a writer. Be part of a select group of writers and adventurers on a unique journey in one of the world¹s most creative cities.”

There are just eight spaces (I think two are already gone), and if you sign up before February 1st there’s an early registration discount. Read all about it on the official website page http://www.originalimpulse.com/writersparis.shtml

* News (warning): High Season in June *
By the way, I just thought I’d mention that there’s a huge Aeronautical Convention in Paris June 13-19, so most hotels will be booked solid (and those that aren’t will have higher rates than normal), so try and avoid planning your trip to Paris that week.

* Entertainment: Ready for my close-up… *
Anyone out there a Daniel Auteuil fan? You can’t really like French cinema unless you like him or Gerard Depardieu (because by French law at least 25% of any French film cast has to be made up by one of these guys). But no worries if you don’t, because his latest film, “Lun reste, l’autre part” (http://www.lunrestelautrepart.com), directed by Claude Berri , also stars Pierre Arditi, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nathalie Baye, an adorable pug doggie, and *moi*! Okay, I’m not starring in it, I’m just an extra. But look at how convincing I am as one of the guests in the African art gallery opening scene! I think they really caught the most flattering angle of the back of my head (I’m the redhead behind Farida and Alain).

* Culture: Kilometer Zero is Back! *
After getting booted out of their posh squat on the Place des Victoires two years ago, the good folks at the Kilometer Zero Project sort of disappeared; rumors suggested they were selling poems in dark alleys in Marseille. But lucky for they’ve resurfaced with the long-awaited Issue Five of their magazine featuring “new poetry, fiction, art and politics including a second look at Hans Kung and a discussion between Sparkle Hayter and Neal Pollack. The issue will also feature a special folio on Marseille that investigates the oft-asked question: Is this the city of the future in terms of Arab-Occident harmony?” Copies can be ordered from their website or found in interesting places like Milwaukee (Wisconsin), Bologna (Italy), Brussels (Belgium), Seattle (Washington), Prague (Czech Republic) and Sydney (Oz)…more locations listed online. http://www.kilometerzero.org/

* Entertainment: Live Music on a Budget *
When is the last time you heard a live musician? (and I don’t mean in a stadium arena, either) There are so many great places to catch live music in Paris, even if your budget can only cover the metro ticket and a beer. The jazz station TSF (89.9FM) sponsors concerts all over the city, including the Café Universel (267 rue St-Jacques, 5th), with free concerts Mon-Sat from 9:30pm-2am (the program can be found on TSF’s website: http://www.tsfjazz.com). Rock fans can always check out Le Péniche Alternat (Quai de Bercy, 12th), the coolest floating club on the Seine just off the Pont de Bercy at the foot of Bercy Village. Live rock, ska, punk and garage music concerts Wednesday-Sunday nights, with entrance fees from €5-€10. Check out the schedule at http://www.ghostnsound.net. Another good place to find concert listings is in the weekly Zurban Guide (€1 at newsstands), which lists concerts along with entrance fees or a “G” for gratuit.

* News (more bad…): Sunside/Sunset Closed *
On a sad note…the Sunside/Sunset Jazz Club at Châtelet had a fire over the holidays and will be closed until the end of March. For more info watch their website: http://www.sunset-sunside.com

* News/Miracles: Tourism Office Re-Opens *
Just over a year after their offices on the Champs-Elysées closed, the new Paris Tourism offices have opened at 25 rue des Pyramides, 1st. This is the place to go if you need last-minute hotel accommodations (small fee charged) or flyers/coupons for all those touristy Paris things (Lido, open-top bus tours, Seine cruises, Paristory film…). Just remember, the people who work there aren’t allowed to have opinions on anything, so don’t bother asking for restaurant or nightlife recommendations. That’s what I’m here for. ๐Ÿ˜‰

* Drinking/Dining: Lovely Wine Bistro *
I had the best pumpkin soup last month at a little wine bistro at Châtelet called La Robe et Le Palais (13 rue des Lavandières Ste Opportune, 1st; tel 01 45 08 07 41). It’s a cozy little place with wooden crates of wine stacked up between the tables. Over 250 well-priced wines are available by the bottle, and the Vin du Jour by the glass. And, of course, you can buy bottles to go at retail prices. Be sure to book a table in advance, it fills up quickly!

* Sightseeing: American Patriot Tours of Paris *
Over the past six months I’ve had several requests for tours of monuments and memorials in and around Paris that are dedicated to Americans. And once I actually started looking, I found them everywhere. Current relations between France (press) and the US (press) aside, there are so many historical ties between our countries that go beyond politics. I’ve developed a special tour highlighting this special relationship, from the statues of the Founding Fathers and Lady Liberty to the WWI Lafayette Flying Corps Memorial and an American Military Cemetery overlooking Paris. And until March 8th, the tour includes a trip to the excellent Musée des Arts-et-Métiers to see the exposition on the making of the Statue of Liberty. Drop me an e-mail for more details: heather@secretsofparis.com

* Shopping: Kitchen & Girly Stuff *
It’s good to have friends who like to shop. Pastry guru David Lebovitz (http://www.davidlebovitz.com) knows all of the best gourmet food stores in Paris. And last weekend he showed me a great little boutique in the St-Paul district called Au Petit Bonheur La Chance (13 rue St-Paul, 4th). It’s a tiny shop selling antique kitchen supplies, cookbooks, metal publicity signs, etc. It’s only open Thursday-Sunday 11am-1pm and 2:30pm-7pm. Across the river, gal pals Jean and Carolyn and I stumbled onto an adorable accessories shop on the rue Mouffetard. Now there are a lot of similar shops, but this one was particularly fabulous – Atelier Thochim (46 rue Mouffetard, 5th) – with exquisite girly purses, hats, scarves, and costume jewelry. Check it out while the sales are on!

* Entertainment: Dancing de la Coupole *
After a bit of a hiatus, Saturday nights at La Coupole are back with the Re-Definition soirées. Live French DJs from 11:30pm, entrance €18, includes one free drink (free for ladies before 12:30am if you’ve got the pink flyer – usually found at Le Shop (rue Argout, 2nd). Don’t forget your dancing shoes! Dancing de la Coupole, 102 blvd Montparnasse, 14th.

* News/Miracles: The New Beaugrenelle *
Another butt-ugly 70s building bites the dust! First the Forum des Halles, and now the Centre Beaugrenelle, that horrid commercial center over by the Pont de Grenelle in the 15th (if you’ve ever been over to see the Statue of Liberty on the Seine, it’s right there). Not only is the building itself ugly and creepy, but the shops inside – and there are only a few left – are the saddest things I’ve ever seen in this town. *shudder* Expect to see something new and fabu by 2008 (it takes time to undo mistakes of the disco era). If you want a sneak preview, go see the plans at info center/portable at 25 rue Linois, 15th or try and look at these “Before/After” pics on the official website (they are taken from very far away and don’t do the horrid interior any justice). http://www.lenouveaubeaugrenelle.com/le_futur_centre/avant_apres.php

* Shopping: Gift for Jazz Lovers *
The holidays are over, but it’s always nice to have a few gift ideas up your sleeve (especially if you got to visit Paris and someone else had to stay home and dogsit). “Jazz in Paris” is a new, 4-CD box set and 50-page photo book covering the classics of the sfour major jazz districts of Paris: “Champs-Elysées 1917-1949”, “Montmartre 1924-1939”, “St-Germain-des-Prés 1946-1956”, and “Rive Gauche, Rive Droit 1956-1959”. Under the Universal Jazz label, it sells in Paris for €49 each, or €196 for all four.

* Culture: The Latest Artists’ Squat *
Tucked between the sex shops of Pigalle, the latest artists’ squat, dubbed La Maison Républicain (42 blvd de Clichy, 18th) , is open to the public for a limited time (they’ll probably be booted out by the end of February). The former lap-dancing club décor of red curtains and mirrored podiums have been replaced by the artworks of twelve members of the Nomads Nomads collective. Stop in and have a peek before they disappear! And if you’re not interested in art, keep this place in mind next time you run into someone you know in the neighboring Supermarché Erotique (“Oh, this isn’t thez artists’ squat?”). Open 1-6pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

* Dining: Korean Restaurant *
It’s also nice having friends who are food writers specializing in Korean restaurants. Jean steered us all into HanLim, just off the Place de la Contrescarpe at 6 rue Blainville, 5th. We tried a little of everything, all excellent – just be warned that when you’re cooking your own meat right at the table, it helps not to stay sober enough to know when to take it off the heat. Quelle honte! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Reservations a must: 01 43 54 62 74.

* Entertainment/Masochism: Nightlife Mishaps *
I keep trying, but I’m still not liking the whole west Paris nightlife scene. Last weekend a friend from NY was visiting Paris. Since she was staying at a hotel on Avenue George V, we thought we’d check out one of the newest clubs that opened nearby called Le Baron (6 ave. Marceau, 8th). Formerly a “hostess bar”, apparently this tiny lounge-bar-club still has the same 80s décor, and only can fit in 150 people at a time. Which is probably why there was about 50 of us stuck in an overly intimate huddle outside the front door. Sam, the “physio”, told us to back up every time someone wanted to get out; he said the same thing when someone who had reserved a table was trying to squish their way in. They’ve only been open since October, so maybe they haven’t learned about velvet ropes, yet. In any case, we got bored after fifteen minutes (sorry, my journalistic stamina is impeded when I’m wearing high heels) and headed over to the Ave. Pierre Charron. I’d been to the Man Ray too many times (overpriced, ho-hum music, and no one resembling the owners Johnny Depp, Mick Hucknall or John Malkovitch in sight), so we went to Le Millardaire next door. We didn’t see any millionaires walking around though, just a youngish crowd of Parisians and tourists. The €20 entrance gets you one free drink. Also a former hostess bar, it’s got that low-ceiling, red velvet thing going. There’s also very loud music (I feel really old, all of a sudden). I can’t remember how long we were there, but it took two showers to get the smoke smell out of my hair. Good thing my friends are also journalists; we can write it off…

* Homeless Heather *
Okay folks, you’re always asking me for leads on housing in Paris, so now is my turn. We’ll be moving out of our current abode by the end of February, and are looking for a top floor (ie no one running around above my head at 8am on a Sunday) flat with two bedrooms and a balcony/terrace (for the doggies) within walking distance of the Gare St-Lazare (8th/9th) or Pont de St-Cloud (that would be the ‘burbs). If anyone has a lead, let me know. We hate having to go through agencies, but neither of us has the time to go house hunting at the moment…

* Are you on the list? *
If you’ve been getting this newsletter forwarded from a friend, please consider subscribing yourself. It’s free, and all you have to do is enter your e-mail address in the box at: /subscribe.htm. The benefit? You’ll get your own copy sent directly to your inbox every month, and I’ll have a better idea of how many of you are actually reading. Thanks! –Heather


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